7. Jogging

Lately I have been feeling very nostalgic. My youngest child recently turned two. I reminisce  about the trips to the park with my daughter when she was the same age. If the city is good for something, other than lap-band surgeries, it is bike trails! I miss putting my daughter in the jogging stroller and running (walking) along the Trinity River. I miss the little dogs with their elderly owners struggling to keep up, the bikes passing on the left, the overly fit people, passing me and then re-passing me an hour later… their sole purpose to make lesser fit people realize their inadequacies.

I would always start my walk at Foster Park and then walk to the River from there. It is a nice walk through shady, densely covered areas and through extremely nice neighborhoods. And we had our favorite little stopping points- Always, as we came around the bend, we would look for the fox that inhabited the park. At the tiny waterfall, I would let her out of her stroller to throw rocks in to the water. One of the houses in the neighborhood had topiary monkeys hanging from their trees. This was her favorite stopping point. On the way back, we would revisit everything again and then we would spend an hour at the playground. I feel sad thinking about it because this isn’t a memory that Linus, the baby, will ever be able to share.

Of course I know this is silly. As he was climbing up and down the dry creek bed, that runs through our property, and then hurried off to chase the goats, I knew my feelings of nostalgia were misplaced. Obviously, his childhood is not going to be lessened by the fact that he didn’t see a bunch of silly monkeys in the trees, but I am a momma and it all just resonates with the understanding that they won’t stay little forever.

I believe, on average, people in the country weigh more than people in the city. Perhaps it is the love affair that they seem to have with mayonnaise, perhaps they are too busy to walk for recreation, or perhaps they just don’t have ANY trails to walk on. For the first year and a half I waited, patiently for the town to build a bike trail that went in front of my property on to some scenic route but around the same time Verizon was telling me that, “no, high speed internet was not going to come to my home any time soon”, I also realized that I was not going to get a bike trail. With that, I decided that I would start walking the road in front of my house.

I live on a fairly busy street, meaning that every 20 minutes or so, a car will drive past… at 70mph. Unlike 3/4 of the streets near me, mine is paved. This is a major plus when it comes to heavy rain or having to drive to the doctor after an ice storm. I decided to grab one of my dogs and set off on my journey. 1/2 a mile into the walk  I had this unsettling feeling I was being stalked. Let me first explain, that this is pretty much my view continuously:

 

 

With that said, I found myself  turning around, again and again, to make sure I wasn’t being followed. Behind my back, I could feel the breath of someone about to lunge. I could see them, in my mind’s eye, creeping up to me, with long fingers outstretched, to grab me and drag me to….. NOWHERE, because there is NOTHING out here. The more that I felt this recurring presence, the more I recognized how my brain had been trained from walking the city trails. As a woman, there is a constant awareness, that you must have, whenever you are in a somewhat secluded situation. My stalker, was nothing more than a figment of my well trained sense of cognizance.

The other day, I tried to explain to a friend, the fear of safety on a country walk versus safety on a city walk, but, before I could even get to my anxiety of someone hiding behind trees, I was interrupted by her exclamation of, “Oh, I bet! There are plenty of coyotes and bobcats out there.” Damn, I hadn’t even thought of that.

5. Chickens

We decided to move out in to the country for a myriad of reasons.

1. Schools: We thought it would be nicer for the children to go to a smaller school. Especially when they got to middle school and kids tend to be hateful to one another. The sad thing is we left at exactly the same time that the city’s public schools were finally adding vegetarian options to their daily lunch menu. It may seem like a little thing, but I felt badly not being there to support it. Just picture the contrast between that and the fact that their new school has children in it whose parents actually slaughter their own food.

2. We run a dog rescue group. The city only allows you to have three dogs at any one time. Currently, I have 14. I doubt any of my previous neighbors would have condoned this.

3. Chickens. My husband, at the time, was a vegan. He very much felt that if he could raise his own chickens humanely it would be okay to consume the eggs. When he looked in to having chickens, in the city, there were too many restrictions to make that possible. Besides, I doubt any of my previous neighbors would have condoned this.

The children, Quinn and Caden, love their new school. Caden loves it mostly, I feel confident, because they have a large television set up in the cafeteria. This televisionshows a steady stream of Scooby Doo. This television blares non-stop through lunch. I think, my husband and I, are the only parents who hate this television. But, after all, we are from the city- where there would be a parental uprising over, not just the fact that educational programs are NOT being shown, but that there is this television in the first place.

Movies are also shown regularly in the place of recess, if the weather is a little bad. In the city, the teacher chooses the movie based on what has been deemed acceptable by the school board  or they simply play games. Here, the children bring movies. Quinn decided to take a 1966 Disney movie called “The Ugly Dachshund”, (If you hadn’t seen it, it is a cute little comedy about Great Dane that thinks he is a doxie.) 5 minutes in to the movie the teacher turned it off and said it wasn’t appropriate. Why? Because the two ADULTS in the movie were celebrating his birthday by drinking a glass of wine. I, being me, was incensed and wanted to drive up to the school and tell that teacher how ludicrous it was that a movie, in which a married couple is depicted sleeping in two separate beds, could ever be called inappropriate. However, my passive aggressive side got the better of me, so silently I fumed.

Our house, at the time of purchase, had a dilapidated chicken coop. I was excited to get it back up and running. Nick, my husband, took much pride in his first, real carpentry job. I didn’t think that the chickens would care if every rafter of their run was spaced perfectly and level. Nick did care though. With the placement of every board I was forced to endure the ritual of walking over to see that the bubble in the level was precisely in the middle. Our chicken palace, is sturdy and strong and above all else… it is straight.

After it’s reconstruction we set forth to find chickens, knowing nothing about chickens. A man, in a neighboring town, was selling some called Red Sex Links. Excitedly, we decided to make the drive. (Let it be said here, that in the country, if you pass the location you are attempting to get to, there is a good chance that it will take you several miles before you really realize it.) We didn’t make it to his house until dark. At that time, we decided that 5 hens and 1 rooster would make a fabulous flock. After all, every country home needs the crow of a rooster to get it started in the morning and 5 eggs a day would be more than enough to feed our family. We brought our chickens home and the first few flew out in a tizzy. Two remained, in the back of the crate, not moving. Nick pronounced them dead and in disbelief we stood staring in to the crate wondering how we could have killed two birds by simply transporting them. He reached his hand in to remove the poor creatures from their plastic tomb, when suddenly they sprang back to life and flew at his face in an attempt to escape. Unbeknownst to us at the time, chickens are heavy sleepers and as soon as the sun goes down so do they.

Chickens, I think, need the largest learning curve of all farm animals. The next morning, after getting them, I stood staring at their creepy, scaly feet, uncertain as to how to care for them. Yes, you can read magazine after magazine, and book after book on the subject but actually looking at a living one versus a picture is quite different. Besides, I had found all the magazines quite depressing from an animal lovers stand point. 1. They always addressed killing and eating them and 2. Chickens can catch a ton of gross diseases.  So, I will admit that I could have gone in to this venture a little bit more knowledgeable. Had I actually read more, I may have also known that winter is the worst time for egg production with chickens. So as Nick was warming up the pan for all of the eggs sandwiches he was planning to eat…. the chickens were only laying 1 egg a week.

We have lost many birds over the past year and a half. It took us a bit to learn about injecting the chickens with antibiotics, or proper worming and who the hell would have known that some chickens would sit on an egg until they were dead from dehydration or starvation?! The chicken farmers at the local market are a wealth of information. Decked in overalls and missing teeth you give the most limited description of what your animal is suffering from and they can quickly spit out a home remedy to fix it. One of our chickens legs was breaking out in bumps, they told us to soak it in vegetable oil and it would clear up. In two days, our little chicken was better. I know they think we are funny. They speak down to us in a way that lets me know that in the same way city people characterize country folks as dumb, they think the same of city people.

Before moving out here, I thought chickens only came in white and red. Those are factory birds and for all I knew the selection was limited to that. I was shocked to see the variety that there is. Our flock has now grown to 30 (give or take). Some of the birds are quite impressive. I don’t stare at them with uncertainty any longer. I love watching them and could sit among them for hours, not moving. The hierarchy among them is fascinating and their days are spent pleasantly clucking and pecking at the dirt. I find it very relaxing watching any living creature that is so content just being.

 

 

 

 

3. Turtles

When you live in the city five acres seems like a lot of land. I can testify, I own more land than any other friend I have in the city. However, seeing as how I have met people out here that own a thousand acres… my five acres screams, “city slicker”. Land out here is willed from generation to generation. I find it amazing that they would have a fortune if they could sell the land. Yet they can only afford to put a double wide on it (and possibly several car’s worth of parts). It reminds me of the people in the city who buy the enormous houses but then have empty rooms because they can’t afford to furnish them.

When we originally came to see this house I marveled at the wildlife (dead coyote in front of the house) and the diversity of the insects. I remember distinctly walking around and staring at the brightly colored, extra large moths and the swarms of dragonflies. I took a deep breath of the air that seemed cleaner, based solely on the presence of such beauty, and walked through a spider web. This, of course, as it would most city girls, sent me running rubbing my hands through my hair in an attempt to dislodge any arachnids that might decide to suddenly take up residence. The thought that ran through my head at that moment, and every other moment after (that was prefaced with a face full of spider web) for that first month, was…. I am not cut out for country life.

When we moved in we made a few important purchases. Two of which topped the list. 1. A riding lawn mower. 2. Fencing to enclose the majority of the property. At this point of my country existence I had overcome the fear of spiderweb facials and thus was excited to mow the “vast kingdom” for my first time ever. “I am not cut out for country life” had not been a phrase that I had uttered in some time and as I sat on the lawnmower and took off, I sang, out loud, all of the lyrics to Green Acres that I knew. I felt positively chipper. Row after row I mowed, and the whole while I belted out various stanzas but by the 18th round of, “I get allergic smelling hay” I was now hot and unhappy plus there was a horrible stench in the air. I pushed on, now tired of singing Green Acres but having already sang the versus so many times; I couldn’t rid myself of the song, it was stuck. After an additional 15 minutes I finally stopped and stared, dumbfounded, at the mower. Why did it smell like death? I surveyed the land to no avail. I knew, something was laying in wait for me but I simply could not see where. More time went on, and I began to wonder if I couldn’t just leave the stinky section of the yard for later. If, by chance, my husband might not notice the corner, near the front was left unmowed. Then I saw it. A turtle. I was struck silent in the middle of, “Green acres is the place for me. Farm livin’ is the life for me. ”

You have to take a look at the most awesome version of Green Acres ever…

*Turtles, no matter how many friends they have, no matter how great the pond, no matter the food supply, or the free massages on Sundays…. they like to roam. (There is a fun fact for you.) Who would have known that with the installation of our new fence we would inadvertently kill off our entire turtle population.*

I once had a friend that wanted to make a calendar featuring “road kill”. Having since seen this idea on the internet. I know that there are at least two people in this world who think that it would be a funny. The reason she never seemed to follow through with it was, she couldn’t come up with 12 different animals that she could find splattered on the street. Now that I am a country dweller I see that it is all cyclical. There are times of the year that you see primarily skunks dead, a time of the year when it is primarily raccoons, etc.  Today, I started thinking and trying to come up with my own list of 12 different varieties of animals, I or my husband, has seen dead in the last year or two. The list includes: raccoon, armadillo, possum,  coyote, skunk, bird, dog, wild pig (three at the same time), snake, horse,  a cow and of course turtle. I was with my friend one time when she took a picture of a dead beaver. I have yet to see one of those out here.